Welcome Back Stricker Others Return to Maui

By Associated PressJanuary 3, 2008, 5:00 pm
2007 Mercedes Benz ChampionshipKAPALUA, Hawaii -- Steve Stricker was decked out in white -- shirt, shorts, shoes and legs -- when he loaded his bag onto a cart, gazed at the Pacific Ocean beyond the lush green fairways of Kapalua and asked a most pertinent question.
 
'Driving range this way, right?' he said with a grin.
 
It has been six years since Stricker was eligible to play in the winners-only Mercedes-Benz Championship that kicks off the PGA TOUR season on Thursday. There were times he wondered if he would ever get back, especially two years ago when he lost his card and had to write sponsors asking for an invitation.
 
Few players in the 31-man field are more grateful to be here.
 
And few are more determined to get back.
 
Stricker earned his way at The Barclays, the first event in the PGA TOUR Playoffs, with birdies on his last three holes for a two-shot victory over K.J. Choi, his first in more than 6 1/2 years. It culminated a hard-earned comeback that began in the winter of '05, when Stricker hit balls in the Wisconsin winter out of a three-sided mobile home to a frozen practice range.
 
So remarkable was his turnaround that he was voted PGA TOUR comeback player of the year two straight seasons, a feat that probably will never be equaled.
 
So a trip to paradise is the perfect time to soak up his success, right?
 
Not quite.
 
'I still feel like I have to prove some things,' Stricker said. 'I want to prove some things to myself. I'd love to win again. I had so much fun at The Barclays, it just whetted my appetite and I got the feeling that I can do again. And I want to do it again.'
 
Some players who have hit rock-bottom and crawled their way out were determined not to let that happen again. Hal Sutton was in that spot a decade ago, and when he returned to the top of his game, he rarely put the clubs away for more than a few days, fearful that he would lose his edge again.
 
Stricker isn't taking it to that extreme.
 
He still loves to spend time in the offseason in a deer stand or on a lake, taking a five-day fishing trip to Canada and spending another five days in the woods with his father-in-law and coach, Dennis Tiziani.
 
But it's time to get back to work, and Stricker is more interested in where he's going than where he has been.
 
'It's the nature of the game. It has its ups and downs,' he said. 'I've been there already. It doesn't bother me. It doesn't scare me anymore. I've dealt with all the negative stuff.'
 
It's all positive at Kapalua, where the 31 players who showed up for Opening Day are reminded of what got them here: Winning.
 
Stephen Ames was the final qualifier, winning the last PGA TOUR event of 2007 at Disney and earning the distinction of being the first player to tee off Thursday in the 2008 season.
 
Paul Goydos wins the award for waiting the longest to return. The last time he played in the Mercedes was in 1997, when it was held at La Costa, the year Tiger Woods made his tournament debut by beating Tom Lehman in a one-hole playoff on the only hole above water.
 
It was Woods' third victory in his PGA TOUR career. Goydos still had one.
 
When Goydos earned his second victory, Woods already was up to No. 54, including 13 majors. Doing some quick math, Goydos figured his rate of winning was once every 55 wins for Woods.
 
'I went up to him at the Masters and said, 'You know, you need to get to 110 (victories) a lot faster than 11 years,' he said.
 
Woods won't get a chance to pick one up this week because he is skipping the Mercedes for the third straight year, and he has company. Phil Mickelson continued his hiatus from Kapalua that began in 2002, while British Open champion Padraig Harrington and Adam Scott also decided not to play.
 
That should make it easier to win, and the odds keep getting better considering other factors.
 
The TOUR Championship only has a 30-man field, but it's at the end of the season when everyone has played their way to East Lake. Most of these guys at Kapalua have loads of rust, having not hit a meaningful shot in a month or more. Thirteen players have never competed on the Plantation Course at Kapalua, with its mountainous terrain, massive greens and severe slopes.
 
So the toughest tournament to get into might actually be the easiest to win.
 
'Never thought of it that way,' Mark Calcavecchia said. 'There's 31 guys here this year, and there's 30 at the TOUR Championship. But Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson aren't here, so that increases your chances of winning greatly.'
 
The defending champion is Vijay Singh, who is close to being fully confident in his revamped swing and has been working harder than ever in the offseason, mostly on his fitness.
 
'I worked out hard,' he said Wednesday. 'My offseason was pretty much working harder than other guys, so it's like a break when I come out on the road.'
 
It doesn't hurt players like Singh, U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera and Henrik Stenson that 16 inches of rain one week last month, and 3 inches at the start of the week, has made the Plantation soft and longer than ever.
 
Singh said it starts with being ready.
 
'Half of the guys will show up here because they've won and they want to get prepared this week,' he said. 'I'm prepared when I come over here. If you look at it that way, I think I've only got half the guys to beat. So many guys are coming from cold. Half of America is under snow, I think. I'm ready to play and ready to win.'
 
Stricker came from the snow, and he's ready to win, too.
 
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    Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

    Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

    Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

    As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

    "That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

    Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

    Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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    Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

    If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

    Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

    But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

    Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

    Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

    Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

    Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

    Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

    Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

    Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

    Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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    Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

    Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

    “It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

    Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

    “What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

    Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

    “When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.